Social Advocacy & Politics: Riding the Wave, or Social Media Transforms the Newsroom



Tara Urso’s post on NewsJacking has our office buzzing. The idea of riding a trend wave to get your message out to a larger, newer audience is equally central to politics, advocacy and covering the news as it is to brands. While everyone is talking about how social media is changing the way we consume news, we’ve flipped the conversation to look at how social media is changing the newsroom and even turning policy organizations into news rooms in their own right.

**In addition to this blog post, I am hosting a Roundtable on the topic May 1 in DC (and streamed online).

NewsJacking for brand marketing, as Urso discusses, relies heavily on images and must be careful about taking sides. For politics and advocacy, taking sides is not a worry, it is the point. And for politics, advocacy and the news, images may be great, but they aren’t always necessary. Sometimes, just a few good words will be enough for you to get out in front of a wave and hang ten.

While politics and advocacy are all about taking a side, surfing one side on an issue wave will still stir up complaints. Usually those complaints will come from your opposition (if they are paying attention to your social media channels) and that should be expected. But if you get really tacky or inappropriate with your message, you could draw the ire of the vast middle.

Take for example the repeated effort to meaningfully discuss policy to address gun violence in the wake of a terrible shooting tragedy.

“Too soon,” the pro-gun lobby would yell.

“Too soon,” the gun owners would echo on Twitter and Facebook, as they try to shout down the pro-gun control (anti-gun violence) newsjackers.

We’ve seen this debate several times, even since Sandy Hook.

Funny thing, though… as a result of this repeated debate (maybe) we are seeing a lot more news about gun shootings. Are there more of them? Or is the news just covering more shootings they used to ignore? Has the wave become a constantly rising tide? Regardless, it now seems that it is always “too soon,” so that we might as well talk about it anyway.

Back in the newsroom, the very reporters who are writing those trending news stories are starting to realize that they can ride their own waves… or, God forbid, the waves created by their competitors. It seems that selling the news is a little like selling a campaign (except without taking sides… unless you aren’t Fox News, or MSNBC, or…) and a little like selling a product (except sharing an idea doesn’t require aligning with it). So new stories can dramatically extend the reach of a reporter and publication by riding the waves of older stories.

Social media has also changed the newsroom by making it equally important for reporters to grow their own personal audiences as it is for the publication to grow its brand audience. The symbiotic relationship between the two will float all boats (yes, I worked in a THIRD ocean metaphor… recap: surfing, tides and… boats).

Even when a reporter moves on to another publication, if they leave behind a positive experience at their last publication, they may continue to tweet articles from it. Next thing you know, reporters are regularly curating content from their competitors in addition to tweeting articles from their new publication.

Then reporters might even start commenting on which of the articles they are curating are good and which are bad… and why. The next thing you know, reporters will become readers’ favorite source of news because they write AND curate great content. Then publication will attract because that is where that awesome reporter who uses social media so well works. Readers will start every day checking out their favorite reporter/curator as they surf the day’s news waves up and down the beach.

And that is a dip in the water of how social media is changing the newsroom.

I think I need a shower now.

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